Commonly Requested U.S. Laws and Regulations

Learn about some of the best-known U.S. laws and regulations.

Federal Laws and Agency Enforcement

One way to learn about federal laws and regulations is through the federal agencies charged with enforcing them. Check the list below for links to agency sites on popular legal topics. Where no federal law exists, sites offer compilations of state laws on a topic.

Business

Child Welfare

Consumer Protection

Controlled Substances

Debt and Bankruptcy

Education

Health

Historic Preservation

Housing

Homeland Security

Immigration and Citizenship

Information and Privacy

Jobs and Employment

Protection of Animals and the Environment

Transportation

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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the federal legislation that protects civil rights and guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in:

  • Public accommodations
  • Employment
  • Transportation
  • State and local government services
  • Telecommunications

The Department of Justice Disability Rights Section provides information about the federal guidelines established in the ADA through a toll-free information line: 1-800-514-0301 (TTY: 1-800-514-0383). This service permits businesses, state and local governments, and individuals to ask questions about general or specific ADA requirements and regulations, including questions about the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and filing an ADA complaint.

Visit the following resources for more information:

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Environmental Laws and Regulations

Protection of the environment is managed at the federal and state levels. 

Air Pollutants, Clean Water, and Safe Drinking Laws

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) addresses several issues, from setting limits on certain air pollutants to enforcing federal clean water and safe drinking laws. In addition, EPA enforces federal regulations to reduce the impact of businesses on the environment.

Wildlife Concerns

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed in 1973 to provide for the protection and conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals as well as their habitats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service are responsible for administering the ESA:

Food Safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EPA have a cooperative arrangement to carry out the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The FDA has responsibility over the safety of food and any substance that is applied to the human body.   

Workplace Concerns

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, deals with problems with the environment inside the workplace. This includes the presence or handling of chemicals and noxious fumes. 

Issues Relating to Tribal, State, and Local Agencies

Many environmental programs have been delegated to the states and they have primary responsibility over them. In addition, some environmental laws and regulations apply to tribal government operations.

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Federal Impeachment

Impeachment is the process of bringing charges against a government official and holding a trial to potentially remove him or her from office for wrongdoing.

  • Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives investigates and brings charges against (impeaches) a federal official.
  • The Senate then holds an impeachment trial to determine if the official is guilty of misconduct.
  • In the impeachment of a President, the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice presides.
  • If found guilty, the official is removed from office and may never be allowed to hold elected office again.

Impeachments

Though the House has initiated more than 60 impeachments of federal officials, including two Presidents, one cabinet secretary and one Senator, only eight—all federal judges—have been convicted and removed from office.

The two Presidents brought up on impeachment charges were Andrew Johnson in 1868 and William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton in 1998.

Impeachment of State and Local Officials

Impeachment can occur at the state level for state officials, including governors, through a state's legislature. Many county and municipal governments also have procedures for impeachment.

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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) states that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information. Each federal government agency is required under the FOIA to disclose records requested in writing by any person. If you would like to make a request for access to information under the FOIA, please contact the agency holding the records you would like to access.

Assistance with FOIA-Related Inquiries

The Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy is the principal contact point within the executive branch for advice and policy guidance on matters pertaining to the administration of the FOIA. For more information, call 1-202-514-FOIA (1-202-514-3642).

Exemptions and Exclusions

Agencies may withhold information related to nine exemptions and three exclusions contained in the FOIA. The act applies only to federal agencies and does not create a right of access to records held by Congress, the courts, or by state or local government agencies. Each state has its own public access laws.

FOIA-Related Statistics

You can search for data from a single agency or compare data from multiple agencies by exploring the FOIA data from an agency's annual FOIA report.

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Regulation of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Federal Government  

Three federal organizations regulate alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives:

State and Local Government 

State and local laws also regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol and tobacco. For more information:

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Federal Laws and Regulations

Federal laws generally apply to people living in the United States and its territories.

Congress creates and passes bills. The President then signs those bills into law. Federal courts may review these laws and strike them down if they think they do not agree with the U.S. Constitution.

Find Federal Laws

The United States Code contains the general and permanent federal laws of the United States. It does not include regulations, decisions, or laws issued by:

  • Federal agencies
  • Federal courts  
  • Treaties
  • State and local governments

New public and private laws are published in each edition of the United States Statutes at Large.

Federal Regulations

Regulations are issued by federal agencies, boards, or commissions.  They explain how agencies intend to carry out laws. Regulations are published yearly in The Code of Federal Regulations.

The Rulemaking Process

Federal regulations are created through a process known as rulemaking. If an agency wants to make, change, or delete a rule, the agency will publish the proposal in the Federal Register and seek public comments.

After the agency considers the public's comments and changes the rule if necessary, it publishes the rule’s final version in the Federal Register, along with a description of the comments received, the agency’s response to those comments, and the date the rule goes into effect.

Federal Court Decisions

Although federal courts do not write or pass laws, they may establish individual “rights” under federal law through their interpretations of federal and state laws and the U.S. Constitution. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka held that state laws which segregated public school students by race were unconstitutional, because they violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.  In striking down those state laws, the Supreme Court determined that “separate but equal” educational facilities instilled a sense of inferiority in minority children that undermined their educational opportunities.

Research decisions of the Supreme Court and lower federal courts in the Law Library of Congress.

State Laws and Regulations

State legislatures make the laws in each state. State courts may review these laws and remove them if they think they do not agree with the state's constitution.

Find state laws and regulations with the Law Library of Congress’s guide for each state.

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Last Updated: March 13, 2017

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